It's not everyday I quote The Song of Solomon in the title of a Blogpost, and I promise not to make a habit of it. Of course Turtles don't sing, and the Bible was referring to the soporific purring sound of the Turtle Dove - reminiscent of lazy summer days - not something we've come across much so far this year! You may have seen some news items in recent days about the plight of this gentle and beautiful member of the pigeon family. One report said the species may be extinct in the UK within 5 years. The bird has declined by 91% in recent years, and it is becoming harder to find in East Yorkshire, but it is still hanging on here, and if their food preferences are determined it may not be too late to save them. It would be tragic if they went the same way as America's Passenger Pigeon, which was once a widespread pest, but is now extinct - in that case from over-hunting.
I don’t normally work on Saturdays, but today was a special birdwatching open day walk around a site in Holderness. The approach road can be quite profitable, so I kept my eyes open. The first thing I spotted were a couple of Hares, which slipped away into a tall crop. I was a bit luckier with a pair of Skylarks, which were either fighting or courting – it’s not always easy to spot the difference. I stuck my lens out the window at the Skylarks, and could hear the distant call of a Yellow Wagtail, but I couldn’t see it this year.
I arrived early so I did a reccy of the site to see what was about. What was immediately apparent was that there was a lack of birds calling. Normally there are both Common & Lesser Whitethroat singing in the compound next to the car park, but a lot of scrub had been cleared, so all these birds were absent. More worryingly there were no Meadow Pipits parachuting into the grass near the car park and there were very few birds singing as we walked down to the first lake. One of the first birds we saw was a male Kestrel, which settled on the top of a tree. A few minutes later a tatty female Kestrel drifted over, which was completely ignored by the male.
Then we took the path between the 2 lakes up to the top of a hill. This was very secluded from the winds, and here we saw Swifts, House Martins, a Curlew, some Long-tailed Tits, a Chiffchaff, a Blackcap (including a red-headed female), and a pair of courting Whitethroats. Near the end of the gravel path the best bird was a singing & displaying Sedge Warbler. However, the next path resulted in a Willow Warbler and 3 baby Herons on a nest. Herons haven't nested at this location before, so this may be the beginning of a Heronry. There were 4 adult Herons present, so perhaps next year there will be at least 2 nests! There had been a male Bullfinch first thing in the morning, but it had vanished before the group arrived. A Great Crested Grebe, a pair of Tufted Ducks and a family of Coots were on the lake, and some red-finned fish were spotted as well as some much smaller fish. The best bird greeted us when we u-turned. A Turtle Dove was purring from a hawthorn bush & then this bird displayed, flying high over the site & fanning its tail.
Longhorn Micromoth Adela reaumurella
3 Adult Herons near a nest with 3 Young
Adult Heron (c) 2012 Chris Cox
3 Young Herons in the nest (c) 2012 Chris Cox
3 Herons - a few days older (c) 2012 Chris Cox
A walk around the old railway line resulted in a 2 Herons in flight – one was somersaulting in a way I’ve never seen before. A Buzzard also drifted over the site, but there were fewer warblers along here, apart from a showy Whitethroat. There were also no Linnets in an area where they are normally very numerous. Again, the best bird was a Turtle Dove, which everyone was able to observe as it perched on the telegraph lines. Only four people turned out for this event at this cracking site, but hopefully they enjoyed their outing, and may take their interest further in future.
Baby Herons from a couple of days ago (c) 2012 Chris Cox